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The Senate is moving quickly to vote—again—to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen Mike Crapo (R-ID) have reintroduced the bill, which could come to a vote next week; since it passed by a large bipartisan margin last year in a less Democratic Senate, it's virtually assured of doing so again. Which brings us to the House, where Republican leadership refused to take up the bipartisan Senate bill last year and then insisted that the weaker House bill excluding or weakening protections for several groups had to take precedence for procedural reasons.
The provision of last year's Senate bill that increased the number of visas for immigrant victims of domestic violence, raising revenue and thereby giving House Speaker John Boehner the excuse to claim the Senate had to work with the House bill, has been taken out, with plans to include it in immigration reform legislation. So the Senate can move forward. But it can't pass a law on its own, and House Republican leadership doesn't exactly look eager to embrace a bipartisan bill:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have remained mum on how they plan to proceed. Spokespeople for both of their offices did not respond to a request for comment. But there have been rumblings that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who chairs the House Republican Conference, may take the lead on the issue. Tribal groups met privately with McMorris Rodgers last week and had nothing but praise for the congresswoman's openness to moving a broad bill.
We'll see. Because while it's good to hear that Native American groups like what they're hearing from McMorris Rodgers, after expanded protections for Native American women proved a key sticking point, the signals are pretty damn mixed if the men in charge aren't sullying themselves by publicly commenting on lady issues. And it's not like we've never seen the Republican Party trot out its few female tokens to try to sell the war on women as essentially feminist.
The Violence Against Women Act needs to be reauthorized, though. And once the Senate votes to do that, the pressure will all be on House Republicans to pass a bipartisan bill rather than once again going for a bill only a far-right Republican could love.